Inpex Wins Feds' Okay for Walker Ridge Deal

TOKYO (Dow Jones)

Inpex Corp. (1605.TO) said Monday the U.S. government has approved its purchase of stakes in four offshore, deep-water energy exploration blocks in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico from Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN).

Inpex bought 15% each in the Walker Ridge 95/96/139/140 Blocks in April last year from Shell, and has been awaiting the U.S. government's approval, a company spokesman said. He declined to specify the value of the deal.

Awareness of environmental and financial risks involved in deep-water drilling was renewed around the world after BP's oil spill last year in the Gulf of Mexico.

However, the Inpex spokesman said the plan that the partners are submitting to the U.S. government to apply for drilling permission complies with new regulations issued in response to the oil spill.

Meanwhile, he added, "Shell is experienced in deep-water operations, (and) we have been thoroughly discussing safety."

The Walker Ridge Blocks are located 280 kilometers off the coast of New Orleans, Louisiana, and cover an area of 87 square kilometers with a water depth of approximately 1,800 meters.

Shell operates the four blocks with a 70% stake. The remaining 15% is held by Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC). The partners plan to drill an exploratory well during the first half of 2011.

Separately, state-controlled Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. said Monday that it will provide equity financing for Inpex's involvement in the Walker Ridge exploration project.

Jogmec plans to invest roughly Y7 billion over the four years from 2011 in Inpex's unit, the actual participant in the project.

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


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